Skyscraper is the latest copy of Die Hard, and like its predecessor, it’s a solid summer blockbuster with plenty of action. If you’ve seen the trailer, then you’ve basically seen the entire movie, so don’t expect any surprises here. This is a modern retelling of an old but proven trope, with plenty of the expensive big bangs and moveable mayhem set pieces that have redefined action movies over the years.
The skyscraper where all the action takes place is a fictitious Hong Kong building called The Pearl, which is the tallest building in the world. The lesson is clear from the outset: if humans build something that seems indestructible, they will inevitably discover the exact opposite is true. At its Greek tragedy roots, it’s a reminder for all people to not get too cocky.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who portrays former FBI agent Will Sawyer, steals the show with his usual charisma and ability to punch, jump, or smash his way through any obstacle. To give him a bit of an underdog edge this time, he does it all with one good leg (he lost the other one in an accident while serving in the FBI), yet he still manages to fight, climb, and even fly (temporarily). In his depiction of Sawyer, we see a more modern take on the hero – a sweet, sensitive, family man who doesn’t need cigarettes or sarcasm to save the day.
Skyscraper excels at destruction, tense moments, and creating a whole lot of problems for some very good people. The premise is simple: Will Sawyer is a security consultant for fancy skyscrapers. Some Scandinavian bad guys decide to set him up as the fall guy for their nefarious plan to steal a bunch of money by burning the building and taking some innocent people hostage. Sawyer will need to overcome all odds and take out all the bad guys to save his family and clear his name.
Neve Campbell shows what she’s made of as Dwayne Johnson’s brave wife Sarah. She, too, has to fend off the bad guys and keep her children alive long enough for their daddy to save the day.
Roland Moller (Atomic Blonde, A Hijacking) leads a stereotypical band of forgettable foreigner villains. With as much screen time as possible devoted to the hero, Skyscraper forgets that the audience is partly cheering for the hero because they want them to defeat a well-developed bad guy. With almost no material to flesh them out, it’s not surprising that we can’t identify with the purpose behind all the treachery.
What most viewers will find surprising is a lack of humor here. Writer/Director Marshall Thurber (Central Intelligence, Dodgeball) has both demonstrated his ability to generate big laughs in the past, and he has created an over-the-top building heist scenario ripe for one-liners. Despite casting an action comedy veteran in the lead role, the film is a more dramatic take on what it would be like to have your family trapped in a burning building and be framed for murder.
Ultimately this film is a predictable vehicle, bringing taught thrills to the masses, and plenty of dollars into studio pockets. It’s definitely worth a watch on the big screen, with the explosions enhanced in 3D for the truly bold.